Welcome to TravelDew

Gabe Millar, founder of TravelDew
Gabe Millar

It is a pleasure to introduce you to TravelDew, a community for leaders in experiential travel.  My name is Gabe Millar and I am eager to hear your stories and learn about how you bring experiences to life.

Experiential travel is an approach to traveling which focuses on experiencing a place by connecting with its history, people or culture.  The opportunities for this type of travel are as varied as the people and places where they are found, they provide insight into the lives of a community through how they work, play, or live (either now or in the past).  Examples from my own adventures include cutting peat in Ireland to dry and burn for fuel, staying in a castle on a ridge top above the Danube River in Germany, boating through a bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico, and learning about Australia’s wine and food through a tour of the Central Market in Adelaide.

TravelDew invites leaders in experiential travel to share their stories, insights, and unique perspectives.  Through these interviews I hope to grow a community that honors the variety of our industry while simultaneously creating the opportunity to learn from each other.

If you are interested in being an early contributor to this community, I invite you to visit the interview page to learn more.  I look forward to hearing from you.

 

5 Prime Reasons To Visit Alaska

5 Prime Reasons To Visit Alaska

If you are an avid traveler with an affinity for the great outdoors, nurturing your connection with nature, and spectacular wildlife, then you must have wondered what kind of surprises might be waiting for you in the mystical wonderland up north. You probably guessed it, Alaska is so much more than a dozen malamutes enthusiastically pulling on a sled through an icy trail in the middle of nowhere.

The quaint coastal towns, the breathtaking natural scenery, the vibrant wildlife and the unforgettable memories forged within make an Alaskan escapade a must-tick box on your bucket list. If you’re still on the fence about making such a journey, here are the top five reasons to persuade you to visit Alaska, and fall in love with it.

1Vibrant Wildlife

Ever dreamed of running into a moose peacefully strolling around while trekking through a forest, or watching a grizzly bear bask in the sun from the safety of a wilderness cottage? These are just two of the hundreds of wildlife spotting opportunities in Alaska, where you will have the chance to see a caribou reindeer, black bears, bald eagles, and even whales, the gentle giants of the deep in the Kenai Fjords National Park.

In fact, Alaska is a true safe haven for marine life of all kinds, so you can expect to witness seals happily dance around and even sea lions frolicking on a deserted beach, with the seagulls unapologetically jumping and tromping on the gentle beasts. If land animals are more your thing, be sure to visit the Denali Park Road for some thrilling grizzly bear, moose, wolves, caribou, and Dall sheep spotting.

2Vivid Natural Scenery

In a world where natural scenery is being destroyed left and right for the purposes of human progress, the Alaskan peninsula stands proud as one of the last remaining bastions of unspoiled natural wonders and breathtaking views. In fact, to witness the magnificence of the Alaskan landscape is one of the main reasons why travelers flood the country from around the world.

This is the land of numerous national parks and unique ecosystems, and home to thousands of native animal species and unforgettable, picturesque landscapes. From the tallest peak in North America, Mount McKinley, and the migrating glaciers of Glacier Bay National Park, to the breathtaking forests of Kobuk Valley, there is no shortage of adventure in the great Alaskan wilderness.

3Amazing Outdoor Adventures

Speaking of adventures, as a traveler, you might be inspired to hit the road on foot, but that is not the only, nor the best way to experience everything Alaska has to offer. While a sled ride is a must, it’s only a tiny part of the grand adventure.

Cruising the rivers and coastal regions is one of the best ways to witness the animal kingdom in all its glory, as well as the best nature sights the country has to offer. For instance, the best way to experience Glacier Bay and the south-eastern region is by taking a small ship cruise in Alaska that will take you through the surrounding archipelago and its numerous coastal towns that have preserved their quaint charm over the years.

4Quaint Seaside Towns

Speaking of seaside towns, Alaska has is riddled with charming settlements that look like they have popped out of a children’s fairy-tale, just waiting to greet you with a smile and a hug. From traditional cottages overlooking the expansive ocean, to the center promenades laden with greenery, meticulous landscaping, and surrounded by vibrantly-colored shops, cafes, bookstores, museums, and art galleries – there is always something new to discover in every little town you visit.

5Unique Cultural Heritage

Alaska’s history and cultural heritage is a vast one, with numerous opportunities to learn about the native peoples, Russian fur traders, and early American settlers and their impact on the future of the country in countless museums scattered across the map.

There are numerous heritage centers and museums you can visit in Alaska, with every town boasting its own display of artifacts, paintings, and even interactive installations. Be sure to visit Ketchikan and the world’s largest totem pole collection depicting the history of the Native Indians. Then travel north to Sitka, a historic Russian port acquired by the U.S. in the 19th century, and revel in the beauty of traditional Russian buildings and cultural influence.

Alaska truly is a traveler’s haven, a place unencumbered by many of the troubles of the modern world. With these unique insights in mind, you won’t have second thoughts about making lifelong memories in the great Alaskan wilderness.

Boutique and Designer Accommodations in Sydney

Boutique and Designer Accommodation Options in Sydney

Sydney’s unique charm lies in its diversity – it features a vibrant art scene, a relaxed beachy vibe and both traditional and modern architecture. Sydney is also home to chic restaurants that offer extraordinary gastronomic delights and luxe accommodation options that will add a touch of opulence to your Aussie adventure. Thus, if you’re visiting this world-loved metropolis, you should indulge yourself in its splendors and stay at one of its most prestigious hotels and apartments. Not only will you experience the high-end side of Sydney, but you’ll also have an authentic, luxurious experience. Here are the top five boutique and designer accommodation options, each one unique in its own way.

1Establishment Hotel

Nestled in the heart of Sydney, in the center of its Central Business District, the Establishment Hotel was once nothing more than a warehouse. Now, it has become an emblem of Sydney’s luxury, offering 31 sophisticated guest rooms and two luxe penthouse suites. Featuring an earthy-chic vibe and all the modern amenities, this hotel will charm any aficionado of contemporary design. The Establishment Hotel will provide you with everything you need, be it a delicious dish of modern Australian cuisine, a refreshing cocktail in its lounge on the fourth level or an exclusive access to its gym. In addition, since the Establishment Hotel is located in the very center of CBD, city’s attractions, such as Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbor and botanical gardens will be within your reach.

2The Old Clare Hotel

What was once an old brewery and a pub now is one of the most charming boutique hotels in Sydney. The Old Clare Hotel is located in Chippendale, a vibrant suburb that has become one of the centers of Sydney’s art scene. This boutique accommodation spans over two heritage-listed buildings, exuding a traditional vibe paired up with modern luxuries. Historic elements are combined perfectly with authentic décor of handcrafted items and the former brewery’s industrial flair. Apart from placing you in the heart of an artsy neighborhood, The Old Clare Hotel also offers three famous restaurants, a lively bar in the hall and one of the most beautiful rooftop bars in the area that is open only to the hotel guests.

3Bondi Apartment

There’s nothing more relaxing than staying in a house that is just a stone’s throw away from one of the world’s most popular beaches. The Bondi apartment is a true example of luxury accommodation in Australia, featuring a modern, eclectic design and a view that will take your breath away. Overlooking Bondi Beach, this house is located just across the road from it, so you’ll be able to sit on your balcony and admire the panorama of the blue horizon and the setting sun. Since this apartment offers numerous amenities, such as laundry, porch with a lounge area and a kitchen, to name just a few, you will feel as if you were home.

41888 Hotel

Despite the fact that this hotel is set in a building dating from 1888, it features all the contemporary amenities. The 1888 Hotel is a boutique accommodation option known as the first Instagram hotel in the world. Not only does it offer an “Insta-Walk” map that will take you to the city’s most beautiful and Instagrammable spots, but this hotel also features a designated area for taking creative selfies. When it comes to the hotel’s décor, it merges different influences, blending the industrial flair of exposed brick walls with a contemporary design and Australian artwork. The 1888 Hotel is located in Sydney’s CBD, so everything is within a walking distance.

5Orme Estate Darling Point

Built in the 1920s, the Orme Estate Darling Point will enable you to experience luxury and splendor worthy of Gatsby himself. This house, with its ornate plaster ceilings, comfortable bedrooms, spacious manicured lawn and peaceful gardens, is crème de la crème of Sydney’s accommodation. From king and queen bedrooms, office space and gym area to heated spa and pool with a mesmerizing view, there’s no doubt that the Orme Estate Darling Point comes from the era of opulence.

Staying at one of these accommodation options will enable you to soak in the luxurious and sophisticated atmosphere of Sydney.

Jelt Elastic Belt

Jelt eco-friendly elastic belt

Jelt launched in February 2014 in Bozeman, Montana. Jelt’s owner and inventor, Jen Perry, started Jelt out of pure necessity. As an athletic, busy working mother and business owner, Jen discovered a need for a functional belt to keep her jeans from sagging and her kids from cringing. With her passion for the outdoors and the company’s headquarters located at the base of the Rocky Mountains, Jelt evolved from being a comfortable, flat belt to wear with jeans to the perfect belt for hiking, biking, skiing, golfing, traveling and everyday fashion.

Product Details

Jelt belts come in about a dozen different colors and patterns, from solid black to digital camo. I went with a throwback to the 80’s navy blue and orange stripe. Here are the details:

  • Strong elastic belt with a non-slip, grippy inner gel that holds on tight and keeps the belt in place.
  • Flat, no-show belt buckle with an interlocking design to avoid buckle bulge.
  • Hypoallergenic,100% non-metal and nickel-free
  • Made from 100% recycled water bottles
  • Belt width 1.12”
  • Weight 2oz.

Jelt eco-friendly elastic beltPros & Cons

Jelt belts are 100% metal-free and can be worn through airport security and metal detectors painlessly and hassle free. This is a great advantage and the primary reason we are reviewing the belt here at TravelDew. I like the style options and the low profile buckle works well. It is promoted as a no-show, flat buckle. The gel on the inside also seems to work as advertised to keep the belt in place, although I suspect that would be a bigger benefit to folks who wear more fashion oriented pants with few or no belt-loops.

The nature of an elastic belt is that it will flex as you move, this should grip the waist better helping to keep your pants up. However, it also limits your ability to adjust the tension which is the biggest drawback to this style of belt. (If you are a person who wants little to no stretch in their belt but still wants to get through airport security quickly, I suggest searching for a carbon fiber buckle.) My final note is that this belt is a little narrower than I would usually wear, although as I review the photos we snapped it doesn’t look unusually narrow.

Bottom Line

There are a lot of reasons to like Jelt as a company, not only are the belts made from 100% recycled water bottles, they also work with organizations that support veterans, youth, and the environment. Plus, in addition to belts, they also make sweet Montana hats and shirts. The belts are very functional and particularly useful on travel days, but they are also perfect for hiking or other active pursuits.

Pro Tip: Getting Through Airport Security Faster

Prior to getting to security screening, perhaps while in line, put as much as possible in your carry-on. This should include everything from your pockets, jackets and/or sweaters, even your phone. The idea is to have as few individual items as possible to keep track of when you reach the screening. One additional note, if you travel with a laptop, it is worthwhile to invest in a TSA-approved case that doesn’t require the computer to be removed for screening.

Some, but not all, of the products reviewed are provided either free or at a discount.  All reviews contain our honest views and opinions.

Elinor Fish – Founder and CEO of Run Wild Retreats + Wellness

Elinor Fish - Run Wild Retreats + Wellness. Image ©www.runwildretreats.com

Elinor Fish has worked in the travel, tourism and running industries since 1999. The Canadian ex-pat, who now calls Colorado home, has long been an avid trail runner, writer and champion for women’s trail running. She spent four years as the managing editor of Trail Runner magazine, during which she founded Run Wild Retreats + Wellness in 2010. After witnessing the positive impact those early retreats had on the participants, Elinor reached out to her extensive network of contacts in the global running and travel industries to start offering more running tours in some of the world’s best trail-running destinations.

Throughout this time, Elinor’s personal health challenges led her to a deeper mindfulness practice. She soon recognized ways to blend running with mindfulness to create one powerful practice that could alleviate the effects of at-times debilitating chronic auto-immune diseases. Elinor’s magazine articles, public speaking presentations and retreat workshops about mindful running have since helped thousands of runners make their running a mindfulness practice to reduce their stress, overcome obstacles to consistent running and improve their overall well being.


Run Wild Retreats + Wellness offers premier trail running retreats around the world. Destinations include Iceland, Spain, Ireland, Italy, and the American Southwest (pictured here). Image ©www.runwildretreats.com
Run Wild Retreats + Wellness offers premier trail running retreats around the world. Destinations include Iceland, Spain, Ireland, Italy, and the American Southwest (pictured here). Image ©www.runwildretreats.com

How do the experiences you offer at Run Wild Retreats + Wellness give guests a unique perspective on the history, people or culture of the places where you offer retreats?

We specialize in travel experiences for runners, giving them an opportunity to learn about the destination’s history and culture as they run with our locally based running guides who are eager to share their food, heritage and local knowledge. We initially connect through our shared love of running and adventure, and from there, build trust and interest in learning about other aspects of their lives in their home country.

How have the running retreats that you offer evolved since their inception?

Initially, the retreats were centered around trail-running techniques and training methods, but I quickly recognized that the reason women came on the retreats went way beyond an interest in cultivating those technical skills. They were really seeking connection with other women, a chance to step outside their usual routines and do something new and different. They were looking for opportunity to invest in their well-being and have an adventure, but safely and with proper support. So now our retreats zero in on delivering that kind of experience.

What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?

The runs are very carefully designed to deliver a certain level of challenge, but not be too hard. Our runs the first few days are easier than the ones that come later in the retreat. I don’t think our guests notice that we are gradually adding in more adventurous elements because we’ve warmed them up to the challenge, whether it’s fording a glacier river or traversing a high canyon rim. If we were to do something that big on day 1, it would have been too much, but by day 6, they’re ready for it and it’s a positive experience.

During the week-long women-only running retreat in Spain, participants stay in boutique hotels, take part in daily wellness workshops, run along the Mediterranean coastline, through historic towns and along breathtaking beaches, eat gourmet Spanish tapas, soak in beautiful scenery and cultural experiences, all under the expert guidance of charming Catalan guides. Image ©www.runwildretreats.com
During the week-long women-only running retreat in Spain, participants stay in boutique hotels, take part in daily wellness workshops, run along the Mediterranean coastline, through historic towns and along breathtaking beaches, eat gourmet Spanish tapas, soak in beautiful scenery and cultural experiences, all under the expert guidance of charming Catalan guides. Image ©www.runwildretreats.com

What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in one of your running retreats?

I would wish them to come with an open mind about what they are capable of doing and what our running is like in a foreign place. This means letting go of their expectations about their running pace per mile, expected finishing time and other metrics. None of those are relevant to the runs we do, since our focus is on maximizing enjoyment, which includes things like stopping frequently to take photos and soak up the views.

What is one unexpected piece of clothing or equipment guests should have to maximize their enjoyment of the experiences you offer?

We recommend that everyone have a good running hydration pack (as opposed to a waist belt or hand-held water-bottle carrying system). Since our runs can take place in variable weather and last up to 4 or more hours, it’s important that everyone have enough water, food and additional clothing to keep them warm and comfortable. Our guides don’t carry food and water for the guests; it’s important that they are self sufficient. Having all the supplies they need to look after themselves out on the trail can be empowering and helps build their confidence in what they can achieve when properly prepared.

Tell us about mindful running: what is it and how do you integrate it into your retreats?

Mindful running is the practice of cultivating deeper self-awareness about what specifically serves you as a runner, versus what is not. Stress, for example, takes a considerable toll on the body and mind, and for many runners, holds them back from feeling and performing to their expectations. The mindfulness techniques we teach help runners reframe setbacks in their training and negative self-talk as opportunities to make positive changes that better support their well being and lower their stress.

The Moab Mindful Running Retreat includes practical clinics, informative discussions, and mindful movement to help participants become durable, strong, and motivated runners. Image ©www.runwildretreats.com
The Moab Mindful Running Retreat includes practical clinics, informative discussions, and mindful movement to help participants become durable, strong, and motivated runners. Image ©www.runwildretreats.com

What is one insider’s tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?

Be open to new and unexpected experiences. I see that our clients learn a lot from one another as well as from our highly qualified retreat leaders. And those who stay curious get the most from the retreat, both in terms of what they achieve physically and what they learn intellectually.

What are the key factors that go into selecting retreat destinations?

When I was the editor of Trail Runner magazine, I had the fortune to travel to a lot of amazing trail-running destinations around the world, so it typically starts with places I’ve run in myself and I know are fantastic. Other considerations include local runners I know in those destinations who can serve as our running guides, as well as ease of access for travelers coming from major U.S. and Canadian cities.

What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?

I have a tendency to be a workaholic and have very high standards for myself, so my daily mindfulness practice is essential to keeping me (somewhat) balanced. Some days, my mindfulness practice is a trail run, other days it’s a seated meditation session or yoga class or journaling. I like a lot of variety, so it matters less what form it takes as long as some daily activity is done in a very mindful way.

Run Wild Retreats + Wellness offers small-group retreats that support participants in learning how to better manage stress through running. Using healthy running techniques to cultivate deeper self-compassion, intentional training, confidence and self-care, runners come away from the experience with a renewed motivation and passion for running. Image ©www.runwildretreats.com
Run Wild Retreats + Wellness offers small-group retreats that support participants in learning how to better manage stress through running. Using healthy running techniques to cultivate deeper self-compassion, intentional training, confidence and self-care, runners come away from the experience with a renewed motivation and passion for running. Image ©www.runwildretreats.com

Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.

In Iceland last summer, our group of 15 women runners were following the narrow, singletrack trail descending mossy Strangarhals Ridge in Goðaland, a mountainous region in Iceland’s southern interior highlands. Before reaching the Krossa River valley bottom, we are stopped prematurely by a 20-foot wide glacier-fed river. The only way ahead is through its icy waters.

In groups of four, we link arms and ford the thigh-deep river, grimacing at the muscle-numbing cold and concentrating on staying upright despite the flow’s force pressing against our legs. Janine, a lawyer from New Jersey who had never before run on trails let alone in the mountains, hung back until it was time for the last group to cross. Gripped by fear, she stays silent in her horror at having to enter the fast-moving water. Nevertheless, when Icelandic guide Addi extended his arm, she links her elbow with his and carefully steps into the river.

Once safely on the other side, she joins the other women in cheers and hugs of congratulations. The river crossing had been a formidable accomplishment for all, but for Janine in particular, it meant facing memories of a friend she’d lost in a white-water rafting accident years before. Walking through the water that day changed her relationship to that memory and transformed her self-image as a runner.

As the tour designer and leader, I couldn’t have orchestrated such an experience, and yet, it ended up being a pivotal moment for us all. The group’s energy shifted as everyone experienced a boost in self-confidence and trust in me and our guides.

Running retreats and camps are becoming more popular for a wide range of runners. Whether you're a beginner or a marathon veteran, these retreats offer the chance to learn about form, workouts and nutrition, and let you meet people who share your passion for the sport. Image ©www.runwildretreats.com
Running retreats and camps are becoming more popular for a wide range of runners. Whether you’re a beginner or a marathon veteran, these retreats offer the chance to learn about form, workouts and nutrition, and let you meet people who share your passion for the sport. Image ©www.runwildretreats.com

Connect:

www.RunWildretreats.com
Run Wild Retreats + Wellness on Facebook: facebook.com/RunWildRetreats
Run Wild Retreats + Wellness on Twitter: twitter.com/irunmindfully
Run Wild Retreats + Wellness on Instagram: instagram.com/mindful_runner
Healthy Runners Community: www.healthyrunnerscommunity.com

New Caledonia Trip Report

New Caledonia Trip Report: Discover Paradise in the South Pacific

Everybody dreams of the occasional escape. When work piles up and overtime at the office begins to kick in, our thoughts tend to fly to shimmering blue waters and supple palm treetops. It is as if these exact daydreams fluttered out of our minds and landed in the heart of Pacific to morph into New Caledonia.

Even though I count myself among the lucky ones when it comes to chances to visit new and exotic places, I will never forget how sold I was once I’d clicked on a few images of New Caledonia. It is truly as close to a tropical heaven as a place can be. If you feel its dazzling shores are calling you and you yearn to discover this paradise in the South Pacific, here’s what you should know.

1

The setting of a great escapade

Nouvelle-Calédonie is a small grouping of islands which became a French colony in 1853. A little over a century later, in 1956, the islands  officially became an overseas territory of France. This is probably why New Caledonians celebrate Bastille Day as a national holiday. The official language is French and its official currency is the franc, or more specifically – Comptoirs Francais du Pacifique francs.

The territory is not particularly sprawling – it consists of Grand Terre, the main island and the biggest landmass in the grouping, a small archipelago known as the Loyalty Islands, the Isle of Pines and several other small islands.

2

Landing on Grand Terre

Grand Terre is not only the largest island of New Caledonia, it is also one of the largest islands in the entire Pacific. It is home to the territory’s capital city, Nouméa, and it is quite recognizable for its elongated shape. It is about 400 kilometers long and it sports a length of somewhere between 50 and 70 km.  The only two viable airports on this entire territory are in the vicinity of Nouméa, and since you will most likely arrive via plane, this charming city is your ground zero.

3

The charms of Nouméa

With a population of over 100,000 people, Nouméa is not a particularly big city. However, what it lacks in size, it makes up for in sheer charisma. Most of this appeal is derived from the genuine and disarmingly pleasant disposition of its residents. However, you should be forewarned – New Caledonians hardly speak any English, so you’ll need at least some basic knowledge of French phrases. You should probably never leave your hotel room without bringing along a small and trusty dictionary for tourists.

With a small map, it is very easy to get around on foot, but if you want a unique experience befitting newcomers, jump on Le Petit Train for an adorable ride and see why Noumea is New Caledonia’s cultural gem. Head to the Museum of New Caledonia to enrich your knowledge about Melanesian culture and marvel at the well-preserved antiquities. There are also the Geological and Maritime History museum, and you should absolutely make sure you visit the Aquarium des Lagons and the Michel-Corbasson Zoological and Forest Park.

4

Inspect the colorful nature

Forest and parks are an inescapable part of the experience. New Caledonia is a proud home to a unique biosphere that will stagger you with its variety and magnificence.  As far as flora goes, you’ll be surprised to know that nearly 80% of the species are endemic to this territory, and that is without even mentioning the several thousand species of animals that are native here.

5

Tjibaou Cultural Centre

This playful architectural landmark is one of the most iconic hotspots of New Caledonia and paying it a visit is an exceptional experience. You will not only have an opportunity to see the most impressive collection of contemporary artwork that came from Melanesian and Oceanic cultures, it is also an establishment where you can see a performance of traditional music and dance. You can also sit in a nearby cafeteria for a bit of rest and refreshment.

6

Marvel at the Barrier Reef

The New Caledonia Barrier Reef is an amazing natural wonder and you will hardly find anything else on the islands that is as awe-inspiring as this UNESCO World Heritage Site. In many ways, it appears as an extension of Grand Terre, as it stretches around the big island in colorful patches and azure lines.  A boat ride around and above this wondrous formation is an idyllic experience, but nothing beats a bit of immersive aquatic activity to savor the colorful beauties of the reef. Luckily for you, snorkeling and swimming are an integral part of getting acquainted with the barrier reef, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

7

Head to Duck Island

You have to see Duck Island in order to believe it. Just hop on a water taxi on Anse Vata beach and it will transport you to this amazing little paradise where you can sunbathe and snorkel for the entire day. You will be gob-smacked once you see how tiny Duck Island actually is and that you can easily walk around its sandy shores in fifteen minutes or even less. Thankfully, there is still enough green shade in the middle of the island and you can purchase a tea or a coffee in the only café on the island.

8

Walk the Isle of Pines

If you think Grand Terre and Duck Island are charming and beautiful in equal measure, than wait till you see the Isle of Pines. The soft white sand makes its shores appear like something out of a fantasy book and it gives a striking turquoise hue to the shallows of Kuto Beach. Its natural beauty is just as epic as the expanse of the Barrier Reef, so make sure to bring along your camera, so you can prove to your friends you have truly been to paradise and back.

What still amazes me about New Caledonia is how many people still haven’t heard of it. However, this is also where the strength of this locale lies. The nature beyond borders of urban areas is mostly intact and it extends confidently across the gargantuan Grand Terre and the surrounding islands. The range of colorful species, the unique charm of the locals and the easy-going way of life amount to an incredible experience you’ll carry with you forever and wish to return for more.

Claudia Van Wijk – Co-owner of Madawaska Kanu Centre

Claudia van Wijk Madawaska Kanu Centre

Claudia Van Wijk grew up paddling a kayak in the front of her fathers ‘double-seater’ fold boot, before paddling her own kayak at the age of seven. Growing up at Madawaska Kanu Centre (MKC), which her parents started in 1972, she had the good fortune of learning from the many world champions instructing at MKC, and quickly reached the international level in both Slalom and Wildwater racing. Ten time Canadian Champion, and bronze medalist in the World, it was a natural transition to continue the family business, especially after completing her BC in Business from Carleton U in the mid-80’s. Claudia’s Whitewater Kayak Slalom background has taken her to the past 4 Olympics as an announcer for Canoe Slalom.


Madawaska River
The Madawaska River is known throughout central Canada and beyond as a whitewater rafting, kayaking and recreational canoeing destination. Some of her rapids have a dangerous reputation among thrill-seekers while calmer stretches support more leisurely pastimes. The Madawaska River is (a relatively short) 230 km long, but as it flows east out of Source Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park, and before it joins the Ottawa River at Arnprior, it drops 380 metres (1,247 ft), making for some very dramatic descents through some of the most beautiful and rustic geography anywhere in Canada.

How do the experiences you offer at Madawaska Kanu Centre give guests a unique perspective on the history, people or culture of Ontario, Canada?

Canada would not be a country were it not for the canoe or kayak. Our roads were our waterways. Canada is a Nation of Rivers or a River of Nations. This is especially true in Eastern Ontario, at the heart of the Canadian Shield where there is equal water to land. Thus a true Canadian experience is on the water.

At Madawaska Kanu Centre we bring people into this wild and inspiring River World. You choose either a CANOE or KAYAK. Paddlers are divided into skill level groups; beginners are introduced first on flatwater, and then eased into Class I and II currents, and experienced paddlers are coached through more technical skills so as to attain greater whitewater challenges.

Madawaska means ‘fast travel route’ in the Algonquin language.

How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception back in 1972?

We still follow the same model that my parents started with, that of the European ski school: top notch instruction, diverse terrain, stunning location, good food and great atmosphere. What has changed is technology. Boats of today are more comfortable and more maneuverable, which makes for a steeper learning curve.

What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?

There is a class for every skill level every week. Thus couples or friends can vacation together, but are challenged at their own levels.

What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in the experiences you offer at Madawaska Kanu Centre?

Attention to detail is very important to us. We are a three generation family business, so happy we can make a living doing what we love.

Claudia van Wijk with her husband Dirk and their daughters Katrina and Stefani.
Claudia van Wijk with her husband Dirk and their daughters Katrina and Stefani.

What is one unexpected piece of clothing or equipment guests should have to maximize their enjoyment of the experiences you offer?

Footwear that stays on your feet … especially when swimming rapids. The current favorite is the Astral shoe.

What is one travel trend that really excites you?

Learning a life skill, not just looking for entertainment.

What is one insider’s tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?

Try something you never thought of doing. Something the environment you are visiting offers. It’s these experiences that make memories.

The Madawaska Kanu Centre provides highly personal instruction in Whitewater Kayaking & Canoeing. Located just outside of Algonquin Park on the Madawaska River, MKC offers all the comforts of a European-style vacation resort.
The Madawaska Kanu Centre provides highly personal instruction in Whitewater Kayaking & Canoeing. Located just outside of Algonquin Park on the Madawaska River, MKC offers all the comforts of a European-style vacation resort.

What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?

  1. Creating a working environment where staff feels this is their business.
    If staff is happy, they take initiatives, and go out of their way to help our guests
  2. Listening to our guests.

One thing we hear a lot: Don’t change. Please stay small. We feel we are part of your MKC family.

What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?

Remembering every guests name during their stay.

Sitting with guests at meal times.

Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.

I hear it every day: “this has been the best day of my life, thank you!”

Connect:

www.mkc.ca
MKC on Facebook: facebook.com/madawaskakanucentre
MKC on Twitter: twitter.com/MADRiverLevel  

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